Transforming an old Steering Wheel - 2016
A technical article from the "Professor" aka Rob Bradford

When steering the right path or to be more precise, sharp left hand bends during a recent spirited event in Tasmania, there was much flailing of arms and elbows which in the confines of Noddy (3A) fitted with 2 people, made for quite a few surprises on the driver’s side when the intended line failed to be adhered to as expected.

Now it is not unusual for said driver to analyse things a little so, with the aid of some fine local grape it became obvious that there were only 2 options available for overcoming the problem and only one which might prove successful, make more flailing room by reducing the size of the steering wheel.

It was a no brainer that the new wheel had to have an authentic TR look so an old defunct and tatty original TR steering wheel was dragged out of the bin to hopefully be transformed into a thing of beauty and function.

The first task is to decide what size is ideal and get a ring of 3mm mild steel plate at least 15mm wide made up to suit the final diameter you want less about 6mm.
The local plasma cutting service works just fine as 3mm x 15mm plate will not warp and the cost should be about $45.00. Keep the inside bit because you will pay for it anyway.

If you are making a new rim to the original diameter of 17 inches (432mm) just use a hacksaw to remove the plastic type covering and underneath you will find a round bar welded to the spokes, then proceed as above but the plate ring should be adjusted to suit in both OD and width. I have found that a thicker wheel is more comfortable than the original and the narrower the plate the more it might warp using plasma cutting, water cutting migh have to be used.

Mark out the old spokes making sure you allow some extra length
For rebating into the steel ring.  Run some weld on both sides and clean up to a smooth finish.

Now is the time to select your chosen wood type and colour in ½” or nearest available 12-13mm thick Ply.

Mark out in as much detail as possible with both Inner and outer diameters as well as top and bottom clearly marked.

It helps to use holes to give the right radii but probably better to leave a mm or so in case the spade bit leaves a ragged edge. (experience)

The next task is to rout out the 3mm channel for the steel ring.
Most routers have guides and bars which can easily be adapted to have the machine rotate about the right centre.
Using a slightly longer bolt from below it was easy to set this up.

Only the top half has the routed channel. It is usually easier and more efficient to use a  jigsaw to cut out the shapes but leave half a mm or so for cleaning up.

The steel ring should fit so that the surface is flush or very slightly below the wood, like 1/4mm.

It takes a little bit of hand fitting to get all the surfaces flush before mixing up a batch of good old araldite or 2 pack epoxy glue and giving the groove and both mating surfaces a good coating.

Clamp and leave to set.

The finishing is the fun part, I used a die grinder with  coarse burr which made the job simple and quick. Whatever method is employed, I found that Plywood is not the easiest material to finish due to the grain being in different directions so a rotating bit seemed to give the best overall finish.
A large half round file fitted the bill for getting the underside finger profiles about right and then sandpaper to suit.

The spacing and feel of these finger grips are purely to taste but any modern steering wheel gives a good basic template. All modern wheels are thicker however there is enough meat to create what ever profile you think most appropriate.
One feature many moderns have is a thickening of the wheel where one’s thumbs sit. Not period but easily included if desired.

I elected to not have rivets on this one but according to taste they are easy to fit when the close to finish shape is obtained.
Purchase some aluminium or brass threaded bolts or bar long enough to go right through the rim.
Drill and tap through the wood and steel.  Screw in the bolt and cut off at the surface.
A slight peening will give quite a neat fit before final finishing with the wood.

Here is a comparison of the old and new wheel. The old one is 15 ½” (390mm) and the new one is 360mm or a bit over 14”
We will see how much the increased Flailing room improves our left hand line.

So there you have it.

Cheers - 
Rob Bradford
TR Reg Australia #57